06 July 2010

Review: Dead Man's Cell Phone

Dead Man's Cell Phone
Melbourne Theatre Company
1 July 2010
Sumner Theatre
to 7 August 2010

If you were at a cafe and a mobile phone kept ringing, would you answer it? Would you answer it if the man who owned it had died at the table? And do you believe that audience members who don't turn off their phones should be publicly shamed and forced to buy everyone drinks at interval?

The MTC have a phone-turn-off title with Dead Man's Cell Phone and in it sweet and mousy Jean (Lisa McCune) answers a dead man's phone, falls in love with the dead guy, meets his family, resolves his familial relationships and contributes to his human organ trafficking business.

American playwright Sarah Ruhl's script is a gorgeous foray into magic realism that delights in taking its audience to unexpected places and filled with wordy delights about the comfort of small casseroles and heaven being like an embossed wedding invitation.

Director Peter Evans takes full advantage of the script's humour but loses the joy of the magic realism. The extreme characters are never real enough to be natural and the fantasy elements are too real to let the fantasy fly, which leaves it in a no-folks land that is little more than the text.

Sound and lighting designers Kelly Ryall and Paul Jackson create a dreamy, magical atmosphere (Ryall's soundscape is especially gorgeous) and McCune brings enough vulnerability and genuine likability to Jean to let us love her enough to travel to her heaven, but too much of the production feels awkward once it's out of the comfort of cafes, posh houses and jokes about people who wear black.

This review appears on AussieTheatre.com.

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